Monthly Archives: June 2010

What Kind of Woodworker Will I Be?

I was hanging out in a forum the other night.  It was suggested, when I asked about the Festool system vs. a table saw, that I should stick to hand tools, because they thought it would be better for my type of woodworking.  This got me thinking…So I responded and decided it would be worth putting up on the blog.

I am not sure I can say exactly what type of woodworker I will be.  Do most woodworkers know this after only 8 months?  I certainly don’t.

I have been practicing hand cut dovetails, flattening a twisted board with an antique Jack plane, and done some mortise and tenons by hand.  I am still new enough that I don’t do any of these thing well, but I am not done practicing either.

I made my living, for 3 years, designing spaces in virtual worlds and as such have hundreds of pieces of furniture already designed.  My works range from decorative vases, to room screens, leather couches, a chair based upon a 1930’s Chinese Art Deco design.  I am a photographer and believe I have a reasonable eye for color, composition and design.

I am fascinated by the works of many.  From the Pietro Piffetti and Lacca Povera in early 18th century Venice, to Thomas Shearer and George Hepplewhite’s designs.  I attended a show on Greene and Greene, last year at the Renwick in DC, six times.  I like Stickley, though I would never make it with quarter sawn oak.  The genius of Siegfried Bing is almost as exciting for me as that of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  Perhaps my favorite is the furniture created by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, though Krenov, Maloof and Tage Frid all fill me with wonder too.

I like to think about the day when I am ready to make furniture.  What will the first pieces be like?  It seems prudent to, like a painter, copy the works of others, before trying my own.  Would a Windsor chair be the style that would work with my motif?  Probably not.  Actually I don’t really have a motive at this juncture, but I will someday.  Though I lean towards the more modern and a Windsor would look out of place, learning the skills to make one, would be very valuable.  I just might take a class.

I like wood.  I like art.  I have wanted to take up this hobby for most of my life, but it wasn’t until I was 42 that I lived in a house, where I had the space to have the tools, to start the journey.

I want to learn to use most hand tools.  I want to learn to use most power tools.  I think there is value in machines too.  I find every task I perform, whether I screw it up or not, to be interesting.  Each day fills me with wonder and joy.  I want to build.  I want to turn.  Mostly though, I just want to try to learn something every single day for as long as I am able.

So I appreciate your advice and I am already trying to learn some.  I have a Stanley 4 1/2, a Bailey 5, Stanley 45, 50, 78 and a 51 and 80.  I have only really learned to use the 4 1/2 and 5 thus far.  I just got a Lie Nielson 3/4 chisel and a fishtail.

That being said, I am leaning towards Laguna for a bandsaw, but I change my mind on the subject frequently.  (Lots of bad stuff about their customer service)

So that was my response. The photo is one of my virtual world designs.  I am not sure that I would use marble for the legs in real life.

Time Travel and Butterflies

The butterfly effect is often used in science fiction, when dealing with time travel, to make a point to the stupid person in group of time travelers.  Usually it is a pack of people, consisting of 2 or 3 really attractive people from each gender, a funny guy, and a character actor who will do something stupid.  The explanation  that something as simple as killing a butterfly several thousands of years ago, could lead to a woman in Suffolk, getting double mocha latte and a blueberry muffin, when she ordered a triple mocha latte and a blueberry muffin, in the present.  Of course, this would put her in a foul mood, cause her to steal her grandfathers shotgun, and go on a killing spree.  It is explained that this killing spree would likely include a pregnant woman, who would have given birth to a child who would grow up to become a mid level manager at a respectable accountancy firm in Ipswich.  Everyone nods, except the character actor who is cleaning his finger nails.

Of course, in this film, the character actor not only kills a butter fly, but destroys several shrubs and maims a rodent, and when they return they find that the ipad does include a phone and is flash compatible.  This freaks everyone out and leads to the two prettiest characters barely surviving the apocalypse  (which might have also been caused by the butterfly).

All of this occurred to me when I realized that some of the assumptions I had worked on, with regards to flattening lumber, were outdated.  (wavy lines…clock spinning back wards…it is 4 hours ago and Brian is in his shop.)

I need to make a tiny walnut box.  Perhaps need isn’t the right word, but I really want to.  I have lots of walnut which is rough cut.  The first step is to hack off a piece that is around 14 inches long.  I want my 4 pieces for the box to be 3 inches long each and a couple inches of excess seems prudent.  With my 14 inch piece of walnut on the planing jig I made, I take my number 5 in hand and have at it.  The fuzzy face become smooth rather quickly.  The board is flipped over and the other side flattened.

The last time I did this, I really struggled with getting the slight twist out of the board, and shaved over half the thickness off before I was done.  This left me with almost the exact size I needed.  Today I was more efficient, and as such, not even close to the thickness I had hoped for.  For my other steps to work, the board must not exceed 5/8ths of an inch.  If it does, a butterfly will die in 2352 BC.

The board wasn’t even close, so I did something that wouldn’t help at all.  I grabbed the Stanley 80, which I got last week, and took some microscopic shavings off the board.  I didn’t really think it was going to get me closer to my desired thickness, but it seemed like a good time to play with it.  So I goofed around with the 80 for 5 minutes and really enjoyed myself.  I don’t think I have it sharpened correctly, but I can see how it will be wonderful, when I do.

There isn’t a planer in my shop, but there is the jig I built to do planing with my router.  I set it up.  It was much more complicated to get it ready than I had hoped.  I fooled with 3 different set ups and none really did a good job.  As I stood there thinking that it really wasn’t going to work, a balding stupid, yet incredibly wealthy man looking at a dinosaur, stepped on a moth who was minding his own business, in the year 1521 DC  (dinosaur calendar).

It hit me.  I have a router table!  I could just route out a groove that is almost the entire length of the board.  The last 1/4 inch will remain unrouted and thus keep the piece even.  When I got it into my head that I needed a jig to plane wood, it was during the building of my router table, when I used my dado jig to flatten the top of the table.  I thought to myself, “I should build a jig specifically designed to do this, so it would go more quickly.”   It never occurred to me that once the router table was done, the need to drag a router and base across wood to flatten it would be unnecessary.

(Wavy lines return…back to present)  I stopped after a couple of passes and took a photo.  I haven’t completed my test of planing with my router table and I will let everyone know how it turns out.  I am already thinking of some sort of jig which might make it possible to plane an 7000 foot plank.  I might have to scale that back to six feet, but the point is, the router being stationary in the table, is easier than using it with the hand held router base, and I believe leads to better quality.

There is one other thing that should be mentioned.  There was a great conversation yesterday about the merits of a bandsaw and how it allows one to resaw lumber.  If I had a bandsaw, I would have resawed this piece and thus not wasted 50% of it.  I am almost convinced that a bandsaw may be more important than a table saw right now.  But that is a topic for another day.  A day way off in the future…or perhaps the past!

Chatting With Some Pros

The Des Moines Arts Festival is one of the finest I have seen.  Admittedly I haven’t been to a great number of art festivals, but I have been to a few.  The quality of the work which is displayed, is truly worth spending a couple of days battling the Iowa summer heat.  My mother, we will call her Mom, and I went on Saturday evening, after the volunteering and then again on Sunday.  The heat was less oppressive on day two and I decided to mingle a bit.

It is interesting how my perspective about wood furniture has changed since last year.  What was once a feeling of amazement is now replaced with admiration.  What seemed impossible, now seems plausible though far off.  Having an understanding of the basics and knowing how hard every aspect of woodworking can be, has made me realize that it is possible, but one must work and work and blog at it.

Since I like to mingle and the professionals were pretty much tied to their booths, I decided I might do some research into the lives of some of these artists.  I did ask politely if they minded being part of my blog, to which they mostly replied that they would love to.  I did find it interesting that one person wasn’t sure what a blog was and none of them seemed to be using social media to market their products.  But that is a story for another day.  Today I wanted to get a glimpse into the lives of crafts people who turn wood into a livelihood.   Though I spoke with a number of wood artists, I decided upon three of them, well actually four, as one was a wife and husband combo.  We also purchased some art, which I will talk about at the end.

The Pros

Natural Elements Woodworking Co.

Steve Lamberti is a young man, relative to me that is, who has been making his living at woodworking since 2002.  He is from Pleasant Hill, Iowa.  When I saw his rocking chairs from a ways away, I immediately was reminded of one of the videos I had watched.  The problem is that I couldn’t remember if it was Krenov or Maloof, who’s work looked like it might have  inspired his chairs.  So I guessed, but of course, was wrong.  Steve is a big fan of Sam Maloof and captures his style brilliantly.  He also has his own voice as demonstrated by some of his smaller pieces.  Sadly I wasn’t smart enough to take pictures of his rocking chairs, as they were spectacular.  I dropped the ball on that one, sorry.  I guess you will just need to click on the link to the right.  In fact, all of the artists in today’s post are listed.  :-)

I spoke with him and his father, who is also a woodworker and seemed quite proud of his son’s work.  Steve often works from rough cut wood, often taking trees to the saw mill.  They showed me a chair which had come from a downed tree, which was so badly beaten by mother nature, that of 1000 board feet, he was only able to make one chair from it.  Though he did use smaller pieces for some other projects.   Steve likes to work with spalted maple, bubinga, and cherry, among others.  He built a beautiful table from quarter sawn white oak, which was lovely.

He attends 3 shows a year and I asked if the smaller pieces are important for offering different price points for people?  He agreed that it was a good idea.  While I was there a woman bought a very cool bowl from him, which was nice to see.  Steve is a very impressive  young man, and his father was quite nice too.  They were a good first interview.

Andrew Kopp Design

Mom saw this booth and she recognized the name.  I was impressed.  Apparently Andrew had been in the Des Moines register and Mom knew that he was, like myself, an ISU alum.  Andrew was very nice.  His work is much more contemporary and I find it very appealing.  He told us that he is working on his Master’s degree in woodworking, out east in Rhode Island.   He has one more year remaining and if I were to guess, a long promising career in front of him.

He told me a little bit about how he became a furniture designer.  When he headed off to Ames, to become an Iowa State Cyclone, he thought he would either be a graphic designer or a photographer.  When he discovered woodworking it became his calling.  I hope he comes back to next year’s Des Moines Arts Festival, as I would love to see his new work.


Viclan Designs

This was not the first time I admired their work.  They were at last year’s show and Mom bought a a really cool Ikebana.  In fact, I think I can safely say that she loves it.  So when we saw them again, I knew that I wanted to find out about their history.  Vicki told me that they had begun in 1976, the same year the Cincinnati Reds won their second World Series in a row.  She didn’t mention the Reds, but I thought it was important to include.  They read several books, including Tage Frid’s classic works.  They just worked on their craft and found that they were able to make a living doing something they enjoyed.

They are another vendor who makes sure to have a good mix of smaller items to go with their larger furniture pieces.  Vicki mentioned that the down economy has depressed sales a bit, and the smaller items really help.  While we were talking a couple bought a Ikebana similar to the one Mom bought last year.  It was their anniversary and the wife was clever enough to help her husband buy her the perfect gift.  This may be why they looked so happy after 12 years.

They work really hard at their business and attend 15 shows per year, including the big one in Denver.  That is amazing to me.  I can’t imagine having the skill or inventory to be able attend 15 shows, but it is their livelihood , and they seem to enjoy the life they have chosen.  I certainly enjoyed seeing their work.

Art Purchase

After chatting with the pros we stopped into the Wayne Trinklein booth.  Though he doesn’t work in wood, he creates art which any woodworker would love.  He makes trees!  They are absolutely stunning.  After 25 years as a Doctor, Wayne took is hobby of turning twisted copper into trees, into a career.  The choices made picking one difficult.  In fact, Mom and I made three trips back to his booth, before she decided on the Bradford Pear.  His work is truly unique and the little tree looks great on the credenza at my parents.  Though he isn’t a woodworker, I have included his link on the blog roll too, because I think that everyone should check out his work.

Thanks for checking out today’s blog.  I hope you will give these fine artist’s sites a look too.  They are exceptional.

Volunteering is Fun

When I received my package of gift hand planes, the only request was that I ‘Pay it Forward’.  The first of my deeds of good was this weekend.  In Des Moines, Iowa there is a church who has been feeding the hungry for 40 years.  Six days a week, volunteers from a church in central Iowa, will come and provided dinner.  There are a total of 35 churches who take turns.  It is quite a well thought out system.

I have a little bit of experience in the food service industry, having done two tours of duty with McDonalds.  I enjoyed my time under the golden arches and when we started to set up, I remembered much of the fun.  I was fortunate in that I worked for one of the best owner operators in the whole franchise system, John Dasher.  Any job can be great if there are great people all around you.

Well we had a good team Saturday night.  Dad was in charge of the plates, trays, buns.  Doug handed out the dessert.  Mom was management and made sure we were running like a well oiled food service machine.  I kept the meat for the maid rites from burning.  It was really quite fun and I thought about the days on the grill, when a bus load of hungry softball players would show up.  It was always a rush to try to feed them all as quickly as possible.  I thrived on it.

So we got everything set up and I was on the scoop the meat and add the condiments station.  The church, after 40 years of feeding people, has learned some valuable lessons.  It goes much more quickly if they have the ‘patrons don’t touch the food rule’.  So we add the condiments, per the request of each person, and by doing it this way, the line moves rather quickly.

I started a little bit slowly, as I hadn’t quite figured out a rhythm, but eventually got in the groove.  This may not be a surprise to anyone, but I am a bit of a mingler.  I just like to chat with people.  There wasn’t much time for small talk though as everyone was hungry, but I did say hello, and everyone was friendly.   We even had a number of people come back for seconds.  They seemed to genuinely like the sandwiches.  Or maybe it was just better than nothing?  I really couldn’t say.  I just know that they all said ‘Thank-you’, and that I had a really fun time.

So to Perry, who sent me the hand planes, which inspired the volunteering, I have to say ‘Thanks’ again, and I am not sure if I should count Saturday as having ‘Paid it Forward’, as I had so much fun.  Does it count if you enjoy it?

I am not sure.  But I recommend volunteering to anyone who enjoys fun.

Ch 2 Libby and The Rabbit

This is a continuation of the story started a few weeks back by Josephine.  She has rewritten the first part and it is posted here.  Her blog can also be found on my blog roll under the ‘Greatest Blogs EVER’ section. She writes, “Slummy Single Mummy”  (Nods head to the right)  If you want to read it in order, it is best to click on the link above, read her piece, then pop back, scroll to the bottom of the category “Camel Musings” and read in reverse order.  Following a story shouldn’t be this difficult, but it is…sorry.


Chapter 2:  Libby and the Rabbit

The moment that everything came unglued, Libby bolted from her pen, and streaked into the chaos. Quickly she bolted around a crumbling building, the sounds of disaster everywhere, she was filled with fright and excitement, mostly excitement.

The days at the zoo hadn’t been terrible. The food was good, the humans who kept an eye on her, were pleasant enough. The other animals were not at all unbearable, and she even liked a few of them. Libby had noticed that some of the other zoo residents, did seem to be jealous of her spectacular good looks. The koala bears, though adorable were not in her league, she knew it, and they knew it as well.

Libby laid across the granite counter, in the kitchen, of what she imagined had been a nice home for humans. The front of the house was gone, but the back, where the kitchen was, remained and Libby had perched on the counter because she was quite sure she looked fabulous there. There was also the possibility that, like her, some other creatures, might wonder wonder past and provide her with a spot of lunch.

After a couple of hours and a nap that could only be described as extraordinary, Libby decided that she had best move on. Out the side door, or more aptly, the side gaping hole, she strolled. Actually it wasn’t a stroll so much as a slink. Not only did she have the grace of a cat, but the poise of a model on a cat walk. Libby walked for a short while, past rows of houses in various states of coming apart at the seams, and across a field. She leapt onto a stone wall and walked it’s length.

At the end of the wall, she sat down, and looked out over the countryside. It was quite a view. The nap had been more than her typical cat nap, she had been quite exhausted, all the excitement had taken it’s toll. Now she felt alive, it was as if the entire world were opening up to her.

A few minutes of grooming, a hop and a leap across a couple of gaps in the wall, and she was off again. A sudden rustling in a row of hedges caught her attention. She got into stalk mode. A rabbit appeared and the chase was on. The rabbit who was really freaking out at the size of the cat chasing it, was motivated, and actually moved quicker than he even thought he could. There was a hole in the wall, he bolted through it. Libby easily leaped over and as she came down she saw the rabbit make a quick move left and into a tiny opening in a small building.

Libby had lost this one, and she was more than a little bit embarrassed. The rabbit was feeling lucky and his heart was beating like it normally does. He was fairly certain that he had used up all the luck in his four feet on that one. Libby was thankful for only one thing, that nobody had been around to see her disgrace. She walked a few laps around the shed and said to the rabbit, “You were lucky today sir, I was a bit off my game.”

The rabbit, not wishing to antagonize her, “No doubt, I am quite sure I was terribly over matched. It has been a pretty bad day, and getting eaten seemed like a reasonable end, but one I wanted to avoid if possible.”

This seemed to be a decent position for her prey to take, and she wasn’t that hungry anyway, so she stopped pacing and said, “You really are very speedy. I am not sure if I would have caught you. I am a bit out of practice, been living at the zoo.”

“Oh no madame, you would have certainly gotten me, had it not been for the fortuitous placement of this rather sturdy shed. I was already starting to tire. I am certain that my demise was at hand.” The rabbit was in the shed, under a wheel barrel, just barely peaking his nose out. His statement about the sturdiness of the shed, was more of a guess, with just a dash of wishful thinking.

Libby laid down next to the hole where the rabbit had entered the shed. She thrust a paw inside and waved it around quickly and pulled it back out. She wasn’t really trying very hard, and her claws weren’t even out. The rabbit still found the giant black paw a bit troubling. Libby said, “You are right it is a good hiding place, you were quite clever to pick it. I think you are being too hard on yourself, you did very well.” She rolled onto her back and stretched out a bit. The she started to purr.

The rabbit, who was still cowering in the shed, had noticed that the claws weren’t out, and it had seemed strange. The purring was almost more than he could bare. In all his years of being chased by hungry creatures, he couldn’t remember ever having a proper conversation with any of them. He also couldn’t remember a cat that was so freaking huge. “Madame, would it be a terribly rude of me to ask, what sort of cat are you anyway? I have seen and been chased by many a cat, but you are truly…” He paused, considering his words carefully, as he had almost said ‘huge’, but decided that might have sullied her sunny disposition, so he went with, “Magnificient.”

Libby had not ever had a conversation with anything she had tried to eat before. Most of the creatures she had tracked, she was certain, were much too frightened and uncultured to appreciate how ‘magnificent’ she truly was. So she rolled over and backed up a bit from the hole, and answered, “Why thank you sir, you are very kind. I am a black leopard. I am from Africa, but as I have said, have been living in the zoo of late.”

The rabbit could see out the little hole. He saw the giant black cat lying there and she didn’t look so threatening anymore, though he did consider the distinct possibility that it could be a trick. “I am not familiar with that type of cat, but I can say, you are much faster and more powerful than any cat I have ever seen. I am sure you will have no problem hunting in this area.”

“Are you from the area originally?” Libby asked, somewhat enjoying the rabbit’s company. It had been several years since she led her rather solitary life in the jungle, and she had grown custom to the banter at the zoo.

“Yes, I grew up in the woods beyond the fence and field.” He said, inching towards the door, he feared she might just be considering waiting him out, so he suggested, “Since we seem to be at an impasse here, and you haven’t eaten, might you be open to a suggestion from your humble prey, as to an alternative dinner?”

“To be honest, I am not terribly hungry at the moment, but it is very good of you to offer, so what is it?” Libby said as she rolled onto her back, twisted her head upside down and looked at the rabbit peering out of the hole.

The rabbit, having just made eye contact with the fearsome, yet incredibly personable hunter, froze. A few seconds later he found his voice and cleared his throat, “This house used to have several cats, and I know that the woman who lived here kept the food in the garage. You might give it a look, I would imagine there could be some easy food there.”

Having been fed for several years, had, though she didn’t like to admit it, dulled her hunting skills enough, that the idea of some easy food was intriguing to her. “That is an excellent idea.” Libby rolled over and stood up, slowly, and elegantly made her way to the house. She knew the rabbit was watching, and she had been called magnificent, so she was quite sure he expected a bit of glamour. Just before she reached the house, she turned back and said, “Thanks for your help sir, It has been very nice meeting you, instead of eating you…” She chuckled at her little joke.

The rabbit laughed nervously, “The pleasure, at not being eaten, was entirely mine.”

“What is your name?” She added, pausing before making the leap through a broken window.

“My friends call me Jackson. And your name Madame, if I may?”

“I am Libby.” And with the grace of a ballerina she lept through the window.

A Traditional Post About StumbleUpon

Sometimes I am asked to write a guest blog piece. About a week ago a request came in from a reader. She is very friendly and since I like to encourage friendliness I agreed. Often I will try to write something the next day, but this time, it took me a while. There was some golf which distracted me, then the ‘Gift Hand Planes’ took my attention away from her piece, and the Isner vs. Mahut match earned my focus for two days. So today I wrote the piece for her, it is quite good.

What this means for the loyal readers of my blog is that all the good words and stories have been used up. So you will be stuck with the left over dreck which I can come up with. I only write one good piece per day, and this isn’t it.

I do feel like I should give an update about StumbleUpon. It has continued to surprise. One of my favorite pieces, ‘My Days As A Ninja’, has started to get hits the last few days.  When I checked SU, I found that it had been seen by one of my SU friends and he had left a comment.  This must have sent it back into the mix and people started to find it again.  Several readers have started to use SU, since I wrote about it, and this has made another benefit apparent.

I follow many blogs, as is apparent by my blog roll.  Even though I have them all neatly listed, I still don’t check every day.  I should, but I don’t.  Many of the blogs only post a few times per week and I forget to check in.  The people who have become my friends on SU too, have been posting their new stuff, and I am finding that this is a handy reminder.  I like to pop over, give it a read, and a thumbs up.

It seems like the people who decided to try out SU have been very generous with their thumbs ups.  My new subscribers are INFILLnc, Woodnbits, FunAndFitKA, Nickl1019 and MereMortals.  If you decide to give SU a try, do look these fine folks up and subscribe to them.  Then you will be part of the party too.  Also, Bobborson is on SU.  He is a great writer and is just getting his feet wet with SU, so you should include him in your subscriptions.

So my blog is getting new visitors every day, from SU, who would not have otherwise found me.  Many of them read only one page and likely never return.  But my number of ‘returning’ readers continues to grow too, so I suspect that a few each day are deciding that their lives are so miserable that wasting a few minutes reading my drivel couldn’t ruin it any further, and they come back.

To those new readers with little else to do, I say welcome.  I enjoy writing and rambling on each day.  While it is true, I would likely ramble on, even if nobody were reading, it is more fun to know that you are.  So I say THANKS.

As is the tradition on Friday, I would like to open up the comments for suggestions on future posts.  I call it FSuggestion Friday (the F is silient)  So have at it.

(Editor’s Note:  FSuggestion Friday has never been done before, so saying it is a tradition is absurd.  Also, I don’t believe that an ‘F’ can be silent, and why is the ‘S’ Capitalized?  Frankly I find the ending to this post to be offensive on many levels.)

Out of Focus…Slightly Foggy Woodworker


“The difference between failure and success is often measured in nanometers, though sometimes it is measured in fractions of a second, on rare occasion is is measured in pints, which is confusing because then success is time, distance and volume, which means that it probably falls into the realm of quantum mechanics, and nobody wants that.”

-Gene Wollowiski, twenty three hours into a Scrabble and beer marathon, in which he was both leading and leaning, or more aptly listing off to starboard.  Sadly, this contest was being held on a boat cruising the Themes and he fell overboard minutes after making this memorable quote.  He had just played qanat.  These were his last words.  He was disqualified from the contest and forever remembered as a failure, both in drinking and spelling.

I love the word qanat and try to play it often in scrabble.  Which is why this would be one of my favorite quotes of all time, if it were real.  When I started to build my tiny walnut box, I knew that precision would be important.  To date, I have demonstrated an incredible ability for NOT achieving precision, which has been fine.  It wouldn’t do for making a nicely little box.  The angles must be exactly 45 degrees.

I have a manual miter box with a saw.  It was one of the first tools I purchased when I moved to the thriving metropolis of Martelle.  It does a good job, but would it do a  precise job?  The answer to that question is no.  My next step was to use my mind to try to over come the problem.  Each cut would start out at 45 degrees but would go awry.  I reasoned that if I set each piece into my sharpening jig and I would be able to flatten them into perfection.  My reasoning seem solid, the results were a disappointment.

I thought that maybe I could buy a more accurate miter box.  I envisioned one of those with the slots in it.  In my mind, the same one which had led me astray on the sharpening jig idea, pictured using my Japanese hand saws to save the day.  I hopped into my car and drove to Home Depot.  The 22 mile ride always gives me time to think about my project and my plan.  I turn the ideas over in my head and think about other options.

It occurred to me that many of my problems would be solved with a table saw.  I was not going to buy a table saw, so I dismissed the idea.  This got me thinking about other more mechanical ideas.  I do have a router table, which I love, perhaps they make a router bit that will cut a 45 degree angle?  I arrived at Home Depot and got the giant orange ladder stairs thingy and climbed up to the section where they have the Freud bits.  My theory proved to be right!  I bought a 5/8ths inch chamfer bit.

Now that I had my wunder bit, I needed to make a new jig.  I love making jigs.  I like dancing a jig on occasion, but I really like making woodworking jigs.  To the pile of practice wood I went, and found a delightful piece of oak.  The edges were pretty rough, so I used my No. 5 to plane the edges.  It only took a few second and made me happy.

Next I spent several hours with bits of wood, pieces of T-track, a little bit of chocolate cake, and the tiny bits of walnut.  The jig needed to hold the tiny pieces firmly, allow for safe and easy passes over the chamfer bit, and make it easy to create identically sized pieces.  Once I had the design worked out, I started to build it.

Building the Jig

Step one:  Route out a groove for the hold down block.  I used a 3/4 inch Freud bit and my router table.  This was the first time I really attacked a project with the table and I have to tell you, it is a really good table.  Up until yesterday, it was mostly just a really pretty table.  Now I know that I have a tool which I have confidence in.

Step two:  Route out a deeper grove for the T-track.  The T-tracks are 3/4″, which I knew, starting the project.  So all I had to do was position the fence and then raise the bit.

Step three:  Some dancing at how nice my groove looked.  I believe Jack Johnson ‘Bubble Toes’ was playing.  (This step is optional)

Step four:  Take two pieces of scrap wood from my dovetail practice pile and drill holes into them to create the hold down block.

Step five:  Create a stop block.  This block is placed behind the hold down block.  It allows one to make all the pieces the same size.

Step six:  Attach the do hickies to the bottom of the jig.  By do hickies I mean the little things that go into the router table track.

Step seven:  Sand everything so that there aren’t any sharp edges.

Using the Jig

Now it was done and ready to use.

Step One:  Unplug the router table, just to be extra safe.  I have a safety switch, but since I will need to be working in close proximity to the bit, I prefer that there isn’t any electricity available.

Step two:  pick the smallest piece in the group.  This is important for being able to end up with a set of uniformed sized pieces.  Install it in the jig, adjust the distance, and then tighten down the stop block.  This is for repeatability.

Step three:  run the piece through, if it looks good, which it did, then loosen the hold down block and switch out the pieces.  Only run one side of the piece through.  This is important.  I wanted to get perfect edges on one side of ever piece, before I then do the second side of each one.

Step four:  run the next piece through and repeat until all of the pieces have been done once.

Step five:  slightly move the stop block forward and run each piece through again, this time, cutting the other side.


When I was done I had four pieces which were identical in size, had perfect 45 degree angels and looked really nifty.  This jig is going to be incredibly helpful and I loved making it.  I feel like this was a hugely successful day.  If you looked at me…from a distance…without your glasses…though a bit of a fog, you might almost think you were looking at a woodworker.  I certainly feel like an out of focus, slightly foggy woodworker.  I think I may play some Scrabble and relax.

A Day To Remember

It is June 23rd today.  I wonder if I will remember the date of this day.  I will certainly remember the events, but when I look back, many years from now, will I remember that they happened on the same day?

The President fired General McCrystal for comments his staff made, which is sort of a big deal.

The United States Soccer team, with only 3 minutes of stoppage time, had a ‘Miracle on Turf’ if you will. The best player for the U.S. squad, Landon Donovan, who has been an inspiration throughout the tournament, put the ball into the back of the net in the 91st minute, to give the U.S. team a 1-0 win over Algeria.  With that goal, the U.S. not only advanced, but won their group.  In sports, this is a big deal too.  I know I was  cheering.

Across the pond, at the All England Tennis Lawn and Croquet Club, a little tournament they call Wimbledon was into it’s 3rd day.  A young qualifier faced off against the #1 player in the world Roger Federer, who has more Grand Slam titles, than I have hand planes.   I have 11 now, he has 16.  Ilija Bozoliac who is the 152nd ranked player in the world, won the second set and gave Roger a test, something nobody would have expected.  This normally would have been a lead story for most tennis fans.

BP let it be known that the cap on the well has slipped off, which is also news worthy.

None of these will be the ‘Event’, for which June 23, not to mention June 22nd and June 24th, will be remembered.  For on this day, in 2010, at Wimbledon, two players, who nobody knows, began playing their 5th set from the match which was called, due to low light, the evening before.   John Isner, from a player from the United States, and Nicholas Mahut, a 28 year old from France, began the day at 2:00 local time.  Only one set remained to determine who would advance to the second round.  By the time the sun set, one of them would be moving on at the most famous tournament in the world.  Or so they thought.

For those who do not follow tennis, at the Grand Slams, the men play best 3 out of 5 sets, with the first four sets being decided by a tie breaker game, should the need arise.  McEnroe and Borg played a tie breaker in 1980 which is legendary, the game took 22 minutes.  When one reaches the 5th set though, there aren’t any tie breakers, they play until one player is ahead by two.

When I tuned into the match, after the U.S. had won their World Cup game, the line read, Isner vs. Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3) with the 5th set at 24-24.  Again, that is 24 games to 24 games.  This was incredible, but it was far from over.  Isner had around 60 aces in the match, while Mahut had a few less.  Each player served with such skill it made breaking almost impossible.  The record for most aces in a match, held by Ivo Karlovic, was 78.  It was possible that one of them might set that record.

The match continued and I remember getting especially excited when it reached 30-30, as that sounds like a typical game score, but it was a set score.  The announcers couldn’t believe that it was going on so long.  There were something like 23 matches which had started after they began their 5th set and had already finished.  But they weren’t done.

Finally the ace record fell to Isner.  Later Mahut would surpass it too.  In fact, Isner had 98 and Mahut 95, so not only did they both beat the record, they smashed it.  This was how it ended for the day, both men besting Ivo’s mark, but neither advancing to the second round.  For you see, it was called for darkness at a little after 9:00 local time, with them tied 59-59.

They have been playing this match for over 10 hours, 7 of those hours today.  The previous record was under 6.  They played one set longer than the previous longest match!  Are you kidding me?!  Both men demonstrated incredible sportsmanship and resilience along the way.  When it is done, both will have written their names into the Wimbledon record books with indelible ink.  They will forever be linked to one another.  They will forever be linked, for me, to June 23rd, and June 22nd and 24th, and if I am able to keep a sharp memory, maybe to some of the other big events which happened today.  What were they again?  Oh well, at least I will never forget Isner and Mahut.

Hand Plane Tribe

About three weeks ago I ordered a couple of chisels from Lie-Nielson, I was expecting them today, but wasn’t sure how they were to arrive. When I got a call from our post master, she said I had a package which needed to be signed for. I assumed it was the chisels.

When she lifted the box, it was obviously much heavier than two chisels would be, and didn’t look like it was from Lie-Nielson.  Hmm…a mystery.

It was from Canada, which added to the suspense. I lifted the package and it was heavy and I heard the sound of something made of  metal inside.  A mystery package with something made of metal?  I got very excited. The lady waiting behind me in line giggled.  I said, “I think someone who reads my blog has sent me some tools?!”

I didn’t recognize the name though. This was quite exciting. The post master let me use her scissors and I opened it. What a find! Inside there were four hand planes.  Actually they were three hand planes and a spokeshave.  My new tool friends were a Stanley 45, a Stanley 50, a Stanley 78, and a Stanley 80.  The Stanley 45 also had a box with all sorts of blades in it, the 50 had some blades too.  This was incredible.

When I got home, I laid them on the floor. Then I called my mom, and read her the letter.  It was from a gentleman who wrote that he read my blog and that he collects hand planes.  He has a bunch of them and decided that I could use these.  He also explained that he believed in the “Pass It Forward” idea.

After I hung up, I couldn’t focus on work anymore. So I laid down on the floor and looked at them, something I haven’t done since Christmas 1979, with my Legos. I played with them a little, turning knobs, and generally just looking over every detail.

I called mom back. She volunteers at a place that feeds the needy. I asked if they have anything coming up soon, and they do. She was happy to add me to the list of volunteers for this coming Saturday.  I will think of two more ways to pay it forward.  Maybe I can make something, using my planes, and donate them to a good cause?  I don’t know, I will have to give it some thought.

Next, I went outside, and my neighbor was sitting on her porch with her sister. I told them about my present. They were very excited too. I then realized that I not only was sent 4 hand planes, but a bunch of future blog posts too, as I sharpen them, use them, and generally get a better understanding of each one.  It was the gift of future writing.

Now it was time to introduce the new tools to the family.  Before I introduced them, I went down stairs and told everyone that we have some new friends joining us.  There was a good deal of enthusiasm, especially among the planes.  Most people don’t realize that, in the wild, hand planes and spokeshaves, prefer to travel in groups.  My little family of planes was especially giddy at the thought of some new members to the tribe.

We cleaned up a bit, before the guests arrived.   The workbench was cleaned off, some thing were straightened up, and all the planes were made ready.  The leader of the plane tribe is the Old English Hand plane.  He is the most outgoing and a natural leader.  So he prepared a brief speech to welcome our new friends from the north.

While he worked on his speech, I went and got our guests.  I explained that I was a new woodworker and that my hand plane tribe was small, but that they were very friendly.

I took them to the shop and introductions were made.  The speech was given and everyone hit it off immediately.  The biggest hit at the party was the Stanley 45, who is named Guy.  The Stanley 110 and 220 were especially impressed with all of Guy’s bling (blades).  Wayne (Stanley 50) and Mario (Stanley 78) hung out and chatted with the Jack planes.  The very suave Maurice, his friends call him ‘The Rocket’ (Stanley 80), was smitten with Manon Rheaume (she is the Stanley 51), they mostly hung out in the corner and spoke in whispered tones.


It was a good day.  I would like to thank my reader and friend from Canada.  I hope you are happy with the names I have given your planes.  I will do my best to ‘Pass it Forward’ in such a way as to do your generosity proud.

p.s.  My generous benefactor is a collector/woodworker named Perry, he hangs out at Lumberjocks and goes by Canadianchips.  I wanted to get permission before I mentioned his name, hence the p.s. to tonight’s blog.  Canada and Perry rock!

Basic Box Times Two

The practice piece of walnut is well on it’s way to becoming, not one, but two boxes.   The board, from which I cut the practice piece, is on the left.  The two pieces which I will turn into box sides are next to it.

When I set the boards on Teri and Tracy the saw horse it was surprising to see how much I had planed the board down.  The original piece was around 19 inches long and almost an inch thick and it has some twist to it.  Now it is two 17 inch pieces which are square and have a lovely 1/4 inch dado cut in them.

Before I started to blog, before I decided to build a work bench, before I had begun my journey, I had magazines.  I remember reading Router Table Secrets, which talked about all the useful things one can do with a router table.  I read that magazine cover to cover several times.  All the tricks and tips seemed so very clever, I couldn’t wait to try them.

Tonight I got to use the router table, which I built, and am immensely proud of, to cut a 1/4 inch dado.  The cut went just as the magazine said it would.  My 1/4 inch Freud straight bit cut though that walnut like a hot knife though something which ‘I can’t believe it’s Not Butter’.

I decided to cut the dado in the long pieces before I divided them up into their respective box sides, as it seemed like a safer option.   In my book, ‘Basic Box Making’, they cut the pieces first, then cut the dado with their table saw.  Since I am using the router table, I liked having a longer piece to push  through.  Also it meant two cuts, versus eight.

After I got the dado cut, I sanded the piece, again figuring it would be easier if I did it first, before I quartered it.  This is where I went a little bit astray.  The edges, because I sanded them with my mouse sander, didn’t stay exactly flat.  So I think I will need to give it a pass with my router to flatten it again.  It was a very slight set back, one which is easily fixed.

I have also decided to make the 45 degree cuts with my miter box.  In fact, I did one cut, on the end, just to see how it would go.  I would say it went swimmingly.  There is very little else to report from today’s box building.  So I will say good night and go back to the shop and do a little more work.